Nice to see a banged up, depthless Longhorn team scrap together a 10 point win, even if it's over a struggling A&M squad that had preseason delusions of Big 12 Title contention.
The Aggie's Big 12 valedictory in all of the major sports has turned into a giant car fire and I can't help but slow down and gawk as Bill Byrne tries to put it out with lighter fluid and piles of straw.
"Bill, I think the lighter fluid and straw makes the fire worse."
"Fuck you, t-sip! You won't be so mouthy when our women's track team lays a beating on you in the steeplechase."
The Longhorns were keyed by the play of Clint Chapman (no, seriously), Julien Lewis, and a late stretch push by J'Covan Brown.
Clint Chapman had 11 points and 7 rebounds and was a key defensive presence down the stretch with a key block and a drawn charge. He played 33 big boy minutes, highlighted by a sweet 17 foot face up and some finishes around the rim. Chapman still has trouble gathering rebounds in traffic (he has now resorted to tipping balls out randomly, usually initiating an opponent fast break) and he can't maintain position against stronger athletes, but his level of play is much better than anticipated in preseason and he presents real problems to less athletic defenders when our guards hit him on the move towards the basket. Chappy is long and has some coordination and Todd Wright has maximized what he has to give physically. Clint is averaging 11 and 8 in Big 12 play on north of .500 shooting and we need him to continue that pace if we have any hopes of making the Dance.
Julien Lewis broke out of a bad shooting slump with 6 of 10 shooting and a perfect 3 of 3 from the arc. Specifically, the upper corner he occupies like a stinky bank-hating hippie. His 16 points led the Horns and his final 3 was the dagger that effectively sealed the game. Lewis got the nod for heavy minutes at SG/SF and they agreed with him. He continues to be the toughest individual on the planet named Julien. We need him to build on this performance on a quick turnaround at Mizzou.
J'Covan Brown was clearly hampered by an ankle and he played poorly for much of the contest, but he was a stabilizing force at point guard when Barnes grew weary of an ineffective Kabongo. Brown closed out the game with four assists over the final 7:00 and was 10 of 10 from the free throw line. 14 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists are fairly good mascara on his 2 of 12 shooting pig and we don't close out the game without his guiding hand. He had some humorous "J'Covan goin' to the basket and cain't nobody stop him!" moments that usually ended in a block or a ball bouncing off of the top of the backboard, but I love me some Port Arthur crazy. Joking aside: he's hurt, played through it, and I appreciate it.
Sheldon and Wangmene had real flashes (Wangemene actually had a "holy shit!" play on a putback dunk) and McCllelan's silky smooth game was punctuated by some dumb turnovers. Bond and Holmes were quiet in limited minutes - Holmes is dinged and Bond just didn't bring it.
On the negative side of the ledger, Myck Kabongo struggled to run offense despite having a substantial quickness and talent advantage vs the A&M guards and he was rewarded with 18 minutes of work and a seat on the bench when the game mattered most. Contrary to conventional wisdom, and since last year, Barnes' team has been trying to run real offense and Kabongo seems to lose the plot at times. Let's just say my concerns for early entry have been assuaged. It should be noted that the NBA makes all draft selections past #15 with a Ouija board and a labrador retriever selecting a dog biscuit off of a player picture, so maybe tjarks can give you the real scoop.
A&M's team is mostly Khris Middleton and some other decent mid-sized 3 types playing out of position with no real big man and bad guard play. Dash Harris has been the worst starting guard in the Big 12 for two years running and Elston Turner - even with a cool name you usually only get in a Tuskegee Airman - helped Dash contribute to a starting A&M guard combo of 6 of 20 shooting with 7 turnovers vs 1 assist. This is not good guard play. THIS IS NOT GOOD GUARD PLAY. THAT SIMPLY WILL NOT GET IT DONE! (Auditioning for job in local radio)
The Horns are 12-4 (2-1 conference) and our NCAA tournament aspirations rest heavily on our next six contests:
Going 1-5 is a realistic possibility. And 3-3 would be cause for a small parade. Any of you who think we go 4-2 have been dosed heavily on mescaline and need to find a quiet place to get your head together.
Missouri is going to kick the shit out of us in Columbia because 1. they're good and 2. they were designed to kill us, but we do have a chance to steal one in Manhattan, take care of ISU at home and then win one of KU, Baylor or Mizzou at home. And by "a chance", I mean that Baylor is going to put together a Phi Slamma Jamma style dunk compilation for Sportscenter.
My longer term prognosis for this team is still quite positive - we've got some guys who will really develop - particularly if we can get Cameron Ridley to renew his commitment after
his feelers for auction concludehis surprising late-game indecision.